By David Brand and Jonathan Sperling
The two men whose alleged roles in a cellphone store robbery led to the friendly-fire shooting death of an NYPD detective were indicted for felony murder in Queens Supreme Court Monday morning as dozens of NYPD officers and top brass looked on.
Christopher Ransom, 27, and Jagger Freeman, 25, both pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder for causing the death of Detective Brian Simonsen. They also pleaded not guilty to various counts of robbery and assault before Justice Kenneth Holder.
Ransom and Freeman also allegedly ripped off another cell phone store together days before the Richmond Hill heist went fatally wrong. Ransom allegedly robbed two additional cellphone stores in October 2018, Assistant District Attorney Shawn Clark said.
“This was a tragic incident that should have never happened,” said Chief ADA Jack Ryan in a statement. “The police, doing what they do every day without hesitation, responded to the scene.”
Simonsen responded to a reported robbery inside a T-Mobile shop at 91-62 120th St. where Ransom allegedly displayed a fake gun and demanded cash and phones on Feb. 12.
Simonsen entered the store and saw Ransom brandish what turned out to be a phony gun, according to the criminal complaint. When Simonsen exited the shop, fellow officers fired 42 shots, with at least one bullet striking and killing Simonsen. Officers also shot Sergeant Matthew Gorman and Ransom, who both survived.
Ransom pleaded not guilty on a video conference from Bellevue Hospital, where he continues to receive treatment for his gunshot wounds. He was dressed in light blue pajamas and sat in a wheelchair beside his attorney Mehia Kim from The Legal Aid Society.
Freeman, a Jamaica resident, allegedly served as a lookout during the robbery that led to the fatal shooting. Freeman is represented by attorney Ronald Nir.
Clark said multiple witnesses identified Ransom and Freeman in surveillance footage obtained from the cellphone stores they had allegedly robbed.
Detectives Endowment Association President Michael Palladino, flanked by NYPD officers, spoke to the media outside the courthouse and said the word “tragedy” isn’t strong enough to describe Simonsen’s death.
“It’s a traumatic experience to have someone you see day in and day out, who you work side-by-side with tragically taken,” Palladino said outside the courthouse. “It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, it’s painful.”
“It’s so sudden and so final,” he continued.
Holder ordered Ransom and Freeman to return to court on May 15.